Ex BetonSports CEO pleads guilty in U.S

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The former chief executive of defunct online gambling firm BetonSports pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy charges in U.S. federal court on Wednesday, the Justice Department said.

British citizen David Carruthers faces a maximum prison term of 20 years and a fine up to $250,000 (172,934 pounds) on the charges stemming from his operation of the firm, a high-profile early player in offshore Internet gambling.

Carruthers was hired in 2000 and led Costa Rica-based to a listing on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market. He was named director of the parent company, BetonSports in 2004.

But the Justice Department said BetonSports employees falsely claimed in U.S. advertising that their Internet and telephone gambling operations were legal, and lied about the safety of money held on account for customers.

BetonSports ceased operations in 2006, and customers lost between $7 million and $20 million, the Justice Department said.

Carruthers entered his plea in U.S. District Court in St. Louis. Five other BetonSports defendants, including founder Gary Kaplan, face trial in September, the department said.

“This plea is a significant step in the government’s efforts to end the proliferation of U.S.-facing offshore sportsbooks,” said John Gillies, FBI special agent-in-charge in St. Louis.

Reporting by Randall Mikkelsen; Editing by Xavier Briand